Check (it) out
October 6, 2004 3:40 PM   Subscribe

netLibrary. "We offer the only comprehensive approach to eBooks that integrates with the time-honored missions and methods of libraries and librarians." Want an account? If your library system is a participant, go to the site from on a library computer, create an account, and you can then log in remotely too. Interesting! [via soup du jour of the day.]
posted by mwhybark (12 comments total)
it is interesting, but very few public libraries have signed up
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on October 6, 2004

This is amazing. The FAQ answers a lot of questions on what this is about, key concepts:

. A library purchases a collection of titles just as they would print titles. As with print books, only one patron at a time may access each copy of an eBook.

. We currently have more than 40,000 eBooks available

.as mwhybark says, patrons can browse from home.

It is a virtual library.. certainly libraries could see this as a threat, there are no books or book shelves or physical buildings.

Imagine something like "micro loans" where one can access the OED for 30 seconds, for example, thus making it legally open and available to a wide audience for free.
posted by stbalbach at 6:14 PM on October 6, 2004

amberglow, those are just the case studies. The full membership list is longer, roughly this.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:50 PM on October 6, 2004

How long will this artificial scarcity (one book one patron) thing last?

Also, anyone know how to convert these files to a more *cough* backupable system? :-)
posted by zelphi at 8:07 PM on October 6, 2004

it is interesting, but very few public libraries have signed up

In Texas, EVERY public library in the state has access to this site from the TexShare database. I work in a public library in rural East Texas, and we've been using NetLibrary for years. I believe that academic libraries in Texas also have a shared collection...
posted by bradth27 at 9:00 PM on October 6, 2004

It's used at the college I work for in Charleston, South Carolina. They use it to supplament the holdings at smaller colleges. Having access to the texts is cool, though the quality of the scans is not uniformly good (some of what I guess are older texts in the collection are something akin to RTF + scans of the images, though the new ones are all PDFs. The web interface has some fairly serious usability issues, IMHO. But it's still a cool concept and one that should stick around.
posted by wheat at 9:10 PM on October 6, 2004

Oakland Public Library provides access to this, and I used it a couple of times. The interface is awful, even on the PDF books, and you have to get past the awkward "check out" system to get that far. Every page of the book is a separate file -- presumably to make it harder to "steal", but mostly it just makes searching harder and reading a pain in the ass.

It's nice, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.
posted by majick at 9:27 PM on October 6, 2004

maybe you wouldn't be surprised, but many non-sitting-infront-of-the-damn-computer-all-day-long types can't be bothered with netLibrary. about half of the patrons of the library at which i work don't proceed with the eBook when they come across a title only available through netLibrary.* contact your publib and tell them you're interested. they'd probably be glad to have you use it.

hmm...if you contact me at the library via IM, you are technically a patron of the library. i'm tempted to offer a login and password to people that send me an IM.

other: yes, it isn't the easiest system to use, many librarians realize this. this is quite possibly why it isn't very popular at some libraries.

*if you're curious, i then usually offer them an out of system interlibrary loan. did you know that through your public library (and if they are on top of things you can do this though their website) you can search the holdings of libraries around the world? and then get items sent to you? it is *almost* as easy as firing up the p2p program of your choice! i've found (and received) a few albums via this system, worldcat, that i couldn't find on p2p networks.
posted by ArcAm at 10:28 PM on October 6, 2004

In my library, the big winner online resources are the various ejournal resources. This is because students/professiors' minions can get the information they need quickly and easily (if the access point is set up right). They are also willing to go through the fooferaw to get the information they need.

NetLibrary isn't really quick or easy to use, but it is designed more for the casual researcher. The casual researcher will almost always take the path of least resistance when it comes to their work, which usually isn't NetLibrary.

Besides, with Amazon's Search Inside the Book and now Google Print, people can find more and more of the quick cite they need without need to jump through all the hoops.

I have doubts as to how long NetLibrary will last. It promised the moon and stars when it was first coming out, but has delivered maybe an asteroid. Using it to support a library system's collection is a lot like renting: sure, it gets you what you need, but it's usually better in the long run to settle down and buy.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:03 AM on October 7, 2004

netLibrary used to be a private corporation that provided online services to a wide range of clients, from public and academic libraries to corporations [+]. Their business model was based on e-books. There was a short e-book mania/boom/bust at the end of the 90s, and netLibrary burned through a lot of VC, including leasing a nice corporate HQ here in Boulder CO. Eventually they went belly-up, at about the same time as other e-book ventures [+]. At this point they were taken over by OCLC.

Some of the problems with netLibrary as I saw them in the beginning (and I haven't paid attention to them for a while) were:

- they retained the copyright on the text and only leased the text to the subscriber (i.e. subscribers didn't own the text, and would have nothing if netLibrary went out of business)
- they held the electronic copy with no guarantee that they would preserve/migrate the electronic copy (i.e. if they didn't the subscriber would lose the copy with no refund)
- a generally clunky interface that only allowed you to view one page at a time, and 'detected' any attempts to scroll through a book as an attempt to copy/paste/download, and froze your access.

Also, at least initially, they were caught between the corporate world and the academic/public world. Thus while they branded their home pages according to subscribers (e.g. the University of Colorado), they were still netLibrary corporate pages, that downloaded third-party cookies, one-pixel gifs, web bugs, etc. that benefitted netLibrary (part of the biz plan, etc.). When I pointed this out to them, they stopped this, to their credit.

netLibrary was a neat idea, but difficult (for me) to use. My main grip was that, unlike electronic journals, where you can print the whole article out, you had to use the navigation to jump around from chapter to index to bibliography, etc., which I found frustrating. I'd rather download whole chapters/sections. On the other hand I guess it would have been hard for netLibrary to convince their paper press content providers that this was a good thing. Here however I subscribe to a more general (P2P) argument to the effect that if I downloaded a few chapters and liked them I'd probably go out and by a decently bound copy for my shelves.

But as I said I do not have access to an institutional sub to them at the moment and can't comment on what they are like now.
posted by carter at 9:44 AM on October 7, 2004

that integrates with the time-honored missions and methods of libraries and librarians

Nonsense. Time-honored missions have more to do with getting good books [and other resources] to people at low to no cost. Increasing reliance on vendors to provide content at unreliable [or variable] rates make the library beholden to those vendors -- even non-profit vendors -- who have a dramatically different relationship to libraries than, say, publishers do. No matter how much netLibrary tries to make it seem like they're just selling books, they're not. NetLibrary goes through a lot of sweet talking about how simple they are, and how they're just like books, only better.

With a collection of eBooks, you can add thousands of titles to your collection, with all the same rights of ownership as print books

Books can be photocopied without restrictive copy protection. Books from the collection can be freely sold [though possibly netlibrary permits this]. Books don't come with a "service fee". Books can be read from anywhere, not anywhere with a computer and proprietary software [just because it's free software doesn't mean it's open source].

I'm not a hard-core "books at any cost!" person, lord knows, but I react strongly to some company telling me how much it loooooooooves librarians and then tries to insult our intelligence. There are a host of other not-like-a-book restrictions and this line from the FAQ implies potential punishment....

netLibrary, however, has developed mechanisms for limiting the copying and printing of eBooks from the Internet. If a user is rapidly viewing multiple pages of an eBook – a pattern that indicates the possibility of page-by-page printing – netLibrary will display a copyright notice and instruct the user to discontinue his or her actions. If the pattern continues, the account becomes disabled for a period of time, and the event is logged for tracking purposes.

I think netLibrary serves a great purpose, especially in academic libraries who have a real responsibility to have archival material and yet may not have the space or money resources to fulfill that mission. However, let's be fair, it's a subscription service, no matter what netLibrary would like you to think

Prices are based on publishers' list prices, with discounts for volume. There is also a service fee which helps us manage and continually upgrade our technology. Remember, netLibrary is not a subscription service.

If that's true, why is the big banner ad that I see on the site saying I can own 99 titles for as low as $399 per year?

Google has it right, or better. Easy interface, somewhat ad-impregnated viewing space, work like other things work, don't make it work like your dorky interface. Suck up to the user not the publishers and their revenue-stream anxieties. Make it really like a book, don't make it sort of a little bit like a book and then tell us it's like a book. We can tell the difference. Or, make it a whole new thing and create a whole new metaphor. The biggest headache about netLibrary for me is the way they try to squeeze the ebook metaphor into the library model and it's just a bad bad fit.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 AM on October 7, 2004

eBook lenders like netLibrary are particularly helpful for providing full-text access to rapidly-changing IT books. Todays eXtreme Programming bible quickly becomes tomorrow's doorstop. I find it invaluable to be able to do a full-text search of thousands of tech books for that one chapter on some obscure programming technique.

In new acquisitions, netLibrary falls far behind competition such as Safari and Books24x7, since netLibrary doesn't appear to have added many titles since the crash of 2000, whereas Books24x7 has already added 639 titles in 2004. (I did a fulltext search of netLibrary for the word "the" in books having a 2004 publication date and got zero hits. 2001 has 249. 2002 has > 300. 2003 has 215).

One thing that used to be cool about netLibrary was their feature that let you download eBooks to your laptop. I used to read netLibrary books on the bus that way. Alas, that feature is no longer supported by netLibrary (or their competition).
posted by gregor-e at 10:37 AM on October 7, 2004

« Older A night at the station   |   Iraqi Indicted for Proposal to Open Talks With... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments